FRANKFURT (Reuters) -- Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has ruled out a deal with Fiat but said he sees the need to improve volume, scale and utilization in the auto industry and at Opel, a General Motors brand.
Neumann, a former executive at Volkswagen, said Opel is focused on creating scale by making better use of GM's resources.
"The industry needs to improve volumes, scale and utilization," but for Opel it was the "big mistake" to look for such benefits outside GM by partnering with PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Neumann said, referring to decisions by previous Opel managers not to put more emphasis on sharing vehicle platforms within the GM stable of brands before pursuing a broad-based alliance with the French carmaker.
"In principle [Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio] Marchionne is right, the auto industry develops the same things ten times over," Neumann said, referring to an email Marchionne is reported to have sent to GM CEO Mary Barra in March suggesting combining the automakers.
Marchionne has said publicly that automakers need to consolidate their resources through mergers to stop wasting billions developing the same products.
The need for carmakers to cut fleet CO2 emissions to an average 95 grams per km by 2021 in Europe means manufacturers are developing very similar engines. The cost of making next generation smaller engines could therefore be reduced by sharing development costs between brands.
Under Neumann's leadership, Opel has put greater emphasis on first seeking economies of scale for sharing car platforms within GM before turning to outside partners like PSA, an Opel spokesman said.
The cooperation between Opel and PSA has been scaled back from its original aims and now focuses on selected projects. GM and PSA will jointly develop and build compact crossovers, small minivans and light commercial vans. Neumann has previously said that GM does not have suitable platforms for these models.
Opel is happy with the PSA cooperation deal on vehicle architectures, the Opel spokesman said.
Fiat and Opel have a long history of attempted cooperation. Fiat bid to buy Opel in 2009 but lost out to a rival offer before GM abandoned the sale process altogether.
GM and Fiat had already formed an equity-based alliance back in 2000, sharing costs on engines and components, but relations soured as Fiat's losses mounted. In 2005 GM had to pay Fiat $2 billion not to exercise a put option to sell the entire auto division to the U.S. carmaker, "and there's been bad blood since," one person familiar with the matter said.
Marchionne sees merger by 2018
Marchionne today said he is convinced there will be another merger deal in the carmaking industry within the next three years. He did not deny reports that he sent an email earlier this year seeking a deal with GM.
"I am absolutely certain that before 2018 there will be a merger," Marchionne said during a visit to the carmaker's Melfi plant in southern Italy. He did not specify whether such a merger would involve his group. "It's my personal opinion, based on a gut feeling," he said.
Marchionne said he could not confirm a report in the New York Times on Saturday that he had sent an email to GM's Barra in March suggesting combining the automakers, but was rebuffed. "I write lots of emails, one does not talk about those things this way," he said.
Sources familiar with the situation told Reuters in April that Marchionne was hoping to seal a big deal for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, possibly in the United States, to plug his group's weaknesses.
Automotive News Europe and Bloomberg contributed to this report